Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield #BookReview
Book: Do the Work : Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way by Steven Pressfield
Publisher: The Domino Project
Publication date: 2011
Source: From the publicist
Summary: Do the Work! carries on the message of The War of Art, the book that was the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge read along selection that we discussed in three parts:
The War of Art introduced the concept of Resistance as the force that keeps us from our creative work. The first book provided tools for combating Resistance. In Do the Work!, we examine how Resistance dogs us each step of the way while completing a creative project along with specific advice about how to handle each of its different guises.
Thoughts: If you have a shelf-full of writing books, like I do, but haven’t written that much (also like me — although I seem to have had a break-through at the beginning of 2015, knock on wood), then Do the Work! might help you apply what you already know to do the job at hand.
Start with structure. An early discussion in the book reminded me of Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler, and Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Whether you rely on these more complicated structure approaches or stick with the simple Three-Act Structure advocated by Pressfield, any project begins with structuring the idea in order to get past the tyranny of the blank page.
Do the first draft fast. Pressfield puts it as “One rule for first full working drafts: get them done ASAP.” Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird advised writing lousy first drafts. To Chris Baty, the inventor of NaNoWriMo and author of No Plot? No Problem!, a month is the right amount of time to spend on a bad first draft of a novel. Somewhere in here is when the creative person gets to experience the other force of nature, the one opposing Resistance, Assistance:
A work-in-progress generates its own energy field. You, the artist or entrepreneur, are pouring love into the work; you are suffusing it with passion and intention and hope. This is serious juju. The universe responds to this. It has no choice. p. 44
Step back and reflect. Pressfield calls a “team meeting” with himself twice a week to take higher-level look at the project:
Pause and reflect. “What is this project about?” What is its theme?” “Is every element serving that theme?” p. 48
Be prepared for the Big Crash.
The Big Crash is so predictable, across all fields of enterprise, that we can practically set our watches by it. p. 72
The solution is 2-fold:
1. The problem is not us. The problem is the problem.
2. Work the problem. p. 78
Ship. This is Seth Godin’s big thing (no accident that he’s the force behind The Domino Project that published Do the Work!). The project isn’t done until we’ve risked utter failure and complete success and everything in between. None of that happens if we don’t ship.
I just noticed that Do the Work! stopped reminding of me of other books after step 2. No wonder I’ve been good at structures and fast first drafts, but very poor on the follow-through. I never identified the steps that came after the first draft!
Appeal: For writers and other creative types who benefit from understanding the process from start to ship.
Challenges: Do the Work! is my fifth book for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge of 2015.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
I’ve never been able to write to a structured plan. Even in school I could never get the hang of essay plans – I have to let it just take shape as I go
I really liked The War of Art when I read it a few years back. I hadn’t heard of this; thanks for sharing. I’ll check it out.
Great timing, Joy! I’m on the last leg of my second novel and I find myself dithering, redoing earlier parts, refusing to barrel onto the end. I loved his first book and am getting this now. Thanks for the memo!
Thank you Joy – I enjoy Pressfield’s work and use it to keep me motivated. Thanks for this review, and congrats on “the break through”. I hope it continues. I’ve had a bit of one myself, too, and I’m loving it!
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